Box #2: Language Policy & Literacy

Case Studies


In August 1977, Québec adopted a language law: the Charter of the French Language (Bill 101), which declares the French to be the "official language of Québec (article 1) and which aims to make French the language of the State and the Law, as well as the normal and usual language of work, teaching, communications, commerce, and business."


"In Latin America , most Indian peoples are still far from enjoying the fundamental indigenous rights which are considered essential to create a context for autonomous development and thus the survival of indigenous ethnias."

South Africa

"During the apartheid era, Afrikaans [the colonial language introduced by the Dutch - a Dutch dialect] and English were used as gate keepers for political power and dominance, as instruments for preserving certain privileges for whites, and ultimately as tools for unfair and unequal distribution of the country's economic resources." (Phaswana, 2003, p. 120)

West Africa

"It is crucial that linguists, educators, policymakers, and other stakeholders recognize that since colonization, the role of French has evolved in Africa. Scholars can not continue to view this Sociolinguistic condition as merely reflecting the inherited colonial language or as a case of an oppressive language promoted to official status."

U.S. Case Study #1

On March 26, 1790 the U. S. congress approved the Naturalization Act. In the next century (19 th century) according to Spring (1997) the U. S. government and educational systems "rejected the concept of the United States as a multicultural society" and instead promoted the U. S. as a "society unified around Protestant [Euro] American culture" (p. 1). There was the perception that deculturalization was necessary to acquire the loyalty of the "Other" (i.e., those other than Euro American Protestants).

U.S. Case Study #2

In 1819 the Civilization Act was passed by Congress. This act enacted the ideas of Thomas McKenney, superintendent of Indian trade and the director of the Office of Indian Affairs (1824 - 1830), who thought that "education was the key to social control and improvement of society (Spring, 1997, p. 16). In the 1820s McKenney pushed for the removal of the Native Americans to the west for their "protection and civilization" (Spring, 1997, p. 17). In 1821 a Native American by the name of Sequoyah (George Guess was the English name given to him) codified his language, Cherokee. In 1829, Andrew Jackson, President of U. S. at the time, felt that the Civilization Act of 1819 was ineffective in "educating" the Native Americans. By 1830 he had put in place the Indian Removal Act (May 28, 1830).

U.S. Case Study #3

In 1898 Puerto Rico (P. R.) became a colony of the United States . This movement was not made at the request of the citizens of Puerto Rico . Ironically, in 1897, just the before the Spanish-American War, Spain had declared P. R. to be an autonomous state. P. R. had assumed power just before the U. S. troops arrived in 1898. Between 1900 and 1930 the process of Americanization began with several policies were put into place included: celebration of U. S. patriotic holidays (e.g., 4 th of July), pledging allegiance to the U. S. flag; studying the importance of U. S. historical figures; replacing local text books and curricula with the ones reflecting the U. S. way of life; introduction of organizations such as the Boy Scouts; and attempts to replace Spanish with English as the language of instruction (Spring, 1997, p. 41). Also, in the early 1900s language policies were put in place in P. R. Puerto Rican teachers and students were sent to the U. S. to learn English, and all instruction took place in English at this time.

U.S. Case Study #4

Many Creoles were created by Africans in many parts of the world as they came into contact with speakers of European languages during conditions of "forced relocation and enslavement" (Winford, 2003, p. 21).The speakers of the languages refer to their languages by names other than Creoles. These names include: Patwa in Jamaica, Papiamentu in Aruba and Curacao , Sranan Tongo in Suriname , Kweyol in St. Lucia , Keryol in Haiti , Creolese in Guyana , and Creole in Belize (Winford, 2003, p. 21). Included in these Black Englishes are African American Vernacular English , Gullah (emerged on the Islands of South Carolina and Georgia), Trinidadian Creole affectionately called, Trini ( Trinidad ). "In 1997 the Oakland, California Unified School District Board of Education approved a language education resolution for speakers of African American English (AAE) or Ebonics that .. [would lead to] Standard American English development for all children." (Morgan, 1999, p. 173). Jesse Jackson and Kweisi Mfume, director of the NAACP referred to the resolution as an attempt to teach slang to African American children and deprive them of education. Multiple newspaper articles, radio talk shows, internet conversations, etc. reiterated the same claims.